Cultivating Hope: A Tribute to Ghouta

In the grand picture, the Syrian story is not one of hope. But many Syrians proved to be agents of hope, in the best and the worst of times. Eastern Ghouta stands out as an embodiment of both hope and despair. The Assad regime besieged Eastern Ghouta for more than five years deploying starvation, denial of healthcare, indiscriminate bombing and use of chemical weapons as strategies to defeat the people and achieve a hollowed military ‘success’. Earlier this year, the regime, supported by Russia, recaptured Ghouta; tens of thousands were forcibly displaced to Northern Syria while others remained, dispossessed and uncertain of what future awaits them.

Against all odds, many in Eastern Ghouta continued to resist and create until the last moments, under siege and bombs. Women fought for their space in a militarized and male-dominated public sphere; resisting, creating and mobilizing in social, political and humanitarian fields in the face of oppressive local armed groups and the siege imposed by the regime. Young students trapped in Eastern Ghouta carried their dreams forward by turning to online universities.

This is the story of Ghouta: Everyday acts of resistance and creativity carved out hope in the midst of the bleakest picture. A plethora of practices, hopes and dreams; many are shattered, but the uncompromising desire to live continues.

In this session we pay tribute to Ghouta and learn how its people managed to cultivate hope. Lubna Kanawati will talk about her personal experience when she lived in Ghouta and her work as part of the organization Women Now for Development. Mahmoud Bwedany, a 21-year-old activist and student from Douma, was one of the last people to be forcibly displaced from Eastern Ghouta. Mahmoud has an incredible story to tell; a story of activism, perseverance and hope. Zoé Beau  (co-founder of the Buzuruna Juzuruna organic farm collective) will share the story of cross-border hope and solidarity by Syrian refugee farmers in Beqaa Valley in Lebanon.